Following on from my recent post entitled When the Best is not Enough  I received a comment from one of my followers, friend and colleague, Claire Taylor, one of the best female cricketers  in the world, before retiring in 2011.

She shared her thoughts on motivation along with recommending a book entitled Drive:  The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel H Pink.  I ordered a copy which dropped through the door over the weekend.  Pink’s three elements are autonomy, mastery and purpose.  He divides those who display Type X and Type I behaviour – the former’s behaviour being driven by extrinsic desires, while the latter by intrinsic ones.  Pink suggests that in order to be successful, personally and organisationally, we need to shift from Type X to Type I and he reassures us that all Type X’s can shift to Type I behaviours – which is reassuring.   I believe that my motivations are currently a mix of Type X and Type I (but predominantly X).  I have very much enjoyed the process of doing the MA, reading about photographers, critical theory and experimenting with my practice – I have enjoyed the journey but, with the Final Major Project looming large in my conscious and sub-conscious, I want to do well.  So, at this critical time, what will help me. Pink suggests it is mastery I need to focus on which is a source of success in the long-term.  He describes Type I people as follows:

“They’re working hard and persisting through difficulties because of their internal desire to control their lives, learn about their world, and accomplish something that endures.” (Pink 2010:79).

Type I behaviour requires three nutrients:  autonomy, mastery and purpose.  Pink argues that this is confirmed by science.  So, we can either continue on the path of old habits (the carrot and stick approach) or we can forge a path to a better and more resilient self – self direction.


Pink describes ROWE – a results-only work environment introduced by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, two former executives from Best Buy.  In a ROW organisation people can work when they want to, attend if they wish – all that is required is they get the work done.  It was initially introduced as a trial but after a difficult adjustment period productivity rose and stress declined.  As a result it became a ROWE on a permanent basis.  As far as the individuals were concerned they were focused on getting the job done rather than worrying about who was in, who was working and who was sloping off early.

Management is more about awakening a sense of autonomy rather than control.  As Tom Kelley, General Manager of IDEO said:

“The ultimate freedom for creative groups is the freedom to experiment with new ideas.  Some skeptics insist that innovation is expensive.  In the long run, innovation is cheap.  Mediocrity is expensive – and autonomy can be the antidote.” (Kelley in Pink 2010:91).

Autonomy can be over the task, time, technique or team and individuals enjoy and thrive on autonomy of different aspects of their role.


Pink argues that whilst control-based management leads to compliance, autonomy leads to engagement which in turn leads to a desire to improve – mastery.

Claire Taylor in her comment suggested that mastery was important for her in her cricketing career and Sebastian Coe says something similar:

“Throughout my athletics career, the overall goals was always to be a better athlete than I was at that moment – whether next week, next month or next year.  The improvement was the goal.  The medal was simply the ultimate reward for achieving that goal.” (Coe in Pink 2010:114).

Claire also mentions flow.  In flow, goals are clear and feedback is immediate.  In flow the challenge is achievable – not too easy but not so difficult.  In flow, we live in the moment, feel in control and engage completely.  Flow is one aspect of working towards mastery.

Our mindset is another.  There are those who subscribe to what Dweck, a Psychology Professor at Stanford calls “entity theory” that intelligence is finite and cannot be improved or “incremental theory” where intelligence is something that can be increased.  Only one heads to mastery – incremental theory.  The goal is to learn and become better about something you care about.  However, mastery is not without pain, and those of us that choose this path will experience a great deal of work often without short-term improvements, with few moments of flow.  But, efforts give meaning to life but one must be willing to work for it.


Purpose provides the third leg of the tripod to autonomy and mastery!  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist argues that:

“Purpose provides activation energy for living.” (Csikszentmihalyi in Pink 2010:134).

Pink talks of those attaining the age of 60, questioning the purpose of their lives, looking back and moving forward.  I can confirm this is the case as I turned 60 earlier this year.  So now is the time to think about purpose again.  The science shows us that the secret to achievement and high performance is in a desire to direct our own lives, to increase our abilities, and to live a life of purpose howsoever we determine that might be.

I have found Pink’s book very interesting.  It has questioned many of the management theories I was taught during my MBA and especially those around motivation.  It is interesting to consider these terms from a scientific base rather than, I guess, a social science perspective.  I am a product of the life and career I have had and now it is time to take a fresh look at how I move forward with autonomy, mastery and purpose in my life.  Pink provides some help in developing nine strategies for doing this.  More on this next week.


Pink, Daniel H. 2010. Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. Edinburgh.  Canongate Books.

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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